The Florida Panthers came up short after falling behind early in a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Florida lost consecutive games in regulation time for the first time this season and have dropped three of their last four. The sixty minute defeat also ended the Panthers nine-game point streak (6-0-3 since December 23, 2018) versus the Blackhawks.
Chicago, coming in on a four-game losing streak, opened the scoring at the 6:24 mark when Dominik Kubalik notched his eleventh goal of the campaign. Connor Murphy started things off by slipping a pass along the boards by Alex Wennberg to Brandon Hagel, who broke into the Cats zone and threaded a pass just under a diving Radko Gudas’ stick for Kubalik to finish off. The Panthers came a whisker away (twice) from breaking this play up, but couldn’t quite do it.
The Blackhawks went up by two with ninety seconds left in the frame. After taking a pass from Patrick Kane, Nikita Zadorov flipped a long-range wrister towards the goal that Pius Sutter deflected down and by Chris Driedger.
A slashing call on Owen Tippett would set the stage for the hosts to grow the lead to three 4:22 into the middle frame when Kane took a crossing pass in the right circle from Alex DeBrincat, paused, and then centered the puck in front for Carl Soderberg to tip by a helpless Driedger, who had to play a potential shot from the dangerous Kane.
Anton Stralman would reply 4:31 later to get the Panthers on the board. After some hard work along the boards by Mason Machement and Tippett allowed the Cats to hold the puck in, Noel Acciari displayed some silky mitts before setting up the defenseman for his third goal.
Noel Acciari sets up Anton Stralman with some nifty stickhandling!— FOX Sports Panthers (@FOXPanthers) March 24, 2021
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Florida pushed hard during the final stanza, doubling up the Blackhawks in shots 14-7, but could only come up with a single goal. Wennberg beat Kevin Lankinen from the side of the net after Acciari directed Jonathan Huberdeau’s pass down low with 4:38 remaining in regulation and the Panthers on a power play with Driedger pulled for an extra attacker.
Lankinen would earn First Star honors for his 33-save effort as Chicago held on to defeat the Panthers for the first time in five tries in 2021.
The Panthers were doomed by a poor start and this time. despite out-shooting (35-32) and out-hitting (42-24) the Blackhawks. couldn’t come all the way back to get the win. A slashing penalty taken by Aaron Ekblad with 2:29 left didn’t help matters... In addition to no Barkov, Joel Quenneville reinserted Vinnie Hinostroza, Brett Connolly and Juho Lammikko into the lineup, resting a fading Eetu Luostarinen, and Ryan Lomberg. I’m not sure if swapping out 25% of the forwards contributed to the poor opening twenty, it was the Wennberg-Huberdeau-Hornqvist line that was victimized for both goals, but the trio of replacements didn’t do all that much (two shots for Hinostroza, one for Connolly). Driedger (29 saves) was his usual solid self, with Kubalik’s goal being the only one you could say he should have stopped. Florida has started the second half of the schedule with a 1-3 record. matching its rockiest patch of the season. The last time that happened, the Panthers won six of seven games. They need to get back on track when they meet the Blackhawks again on Thursday. Don’t want this bump in the road to get out of hand.
Bows & Arrows
- Radko Gudas posted a career-high 11 hits and led Florida with three blocked shots. Gudas’ 11 hits are the most in a single game by a Panther in franchise history.
- Jonathan Huberdeau played in his 568th NHL game, surpassing Olli Jokinen for fifth-most games played in franchise history. Huberdeau leads the Cats with 16 power-play points.
- Patrick Kane moved past Keith Tkachuk into fourth place among United States-born players with 1,066 NHL points.
- Alex Wennberg’s goal was his seventh and extended his point streak to two games. He has produced two goals and four points over his past five tilts.
- Noel Acciari posted his first career multi-assist game, and won 17 of his 22 faceoffs (77%).
- Chicago forward MacKenzie Entwistle made his NHL debut and had two shots and three hits in 6:03 of ice time.
- For more on Florida’s first loss to the Blackhawks, visit Second City Hockey.